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To Play the King 

Francis Urquhart, the unscrupulous but cunning Conservative Prime Minister, has his survival threatened by a liberal monarch and an upcoming General Election.

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Series cast summary:
Ian Richardson ...  Francis Urquhart 4 episodes, 1993
Michael Kitchen ...  The King 4 episodes, 1993
Kitty Aldridge ...  Sarah Harding 4 episodes, 1993
Colin Jeavons ...  Tim Stamper 4 episodes, 1993
Diane Fletcher Diane Fletcher ...  Elizabeth Urquhart 4 episodes, 1993
Nicholas Farrell ...  David Mycroft 4 episodes, 1993
Rowena King ...  Chloe Carmichael 4 episodes, 1993
Leonard Preston Leonard Preston ...  John Stroud 4 episodes, 1993
Erika Hoffman Erika Hoffman ...  The Lady 4 episodes, 1993
Jack Fortune Jack Fortune ...  Ken Charterhouse 4 episodes, 1993
Nick Brimble ...  Corder 4 episodes, 1993
Bernice Stegers ...  Princess Charlotte 3 episodes, 1993
David Ryall ...  Sir Bruce Bullerby 3 episodes, 1993
Pip Torrens ...  Andrew Harding 3 episodes, 1993
Frederick Treves ...  Lord Quillington 3 episodes, 1993
Tom Beasley Tom Beasley ...  Young Prince / ... 3 episodes, 1993
Don Warrington ...  Graham Gaunt 3 episodes, 1993
Paula Tilbrook Paula Tilbrook ...  Speaker 3 episodes, 1993
John Bird John Bird ...  Bryan Brynford-Jones 2 episodes, 1993
Kate Ricketts Kate Ricketts ...  Current Affairs Lady 2 episodes, 1993
Merelina Kendall ...  Hilda Cordwainer 2 episodes, 1993
Anthony Smee Anthony Smee ...  John Staines 2 episodes, 1993
John Paul Connolly John Paul Connolly ...  Sturdy Beggar 2 episodes, 1993
Soo Drouet Soo Drouet ...  Big Woman 2 episodes, 1993


Francis Urquhart, the unscrupulous but cunning Conservative Prime Minister, has his survival threatened by a liberal monarch and an upcoming General Election. Written by Dragan Antulov <dragan.antulov@altbbs.fido.hr>

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Release Date:

8 October 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

To Play the King See more »

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Technical Specs


(4 parts)

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Did You Know?


Stamper confronts Francis about having a job in higher office after the election, like Home Secretary, but Francis rejects him. In the first House of Cards, Francis was promised a higher post like Home Secretary from Collingridge, but was rejected. See more »


Francis Urquhart: You have a remarkable brain, and I should like to plunder it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the credits Ian Richardson is shown in close up saying "God save the King" See more »


Follows House of Cards (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Not Her Majesty's Humbert
26 January 2013 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

Compared to the first House of Cards, this is a retread of familiar ground, far-fetched in spots, and fizzles out in the 'explosive' finale. It is still fun to watch, and together with Cards, a great primary text.

The narrative tension arises from the fact that the protagonist—Francis Urquhart, now Prime Minister after the events of the first one—is both an actor inside the story and the capricious narrator who in telling it attempts to control that story and his environment, Lolita-wise. (which Ian Richardson has not only known, as anyone in his trade can be expected to, but actually played on the stage, in Albee's Broadway version as apparently Nabokov himself)

We are roped in the story, by Urquhart making the camera a co- conspirator on his side.

This could have been of more interest than the first. The issue of co- conspiratorial viewing more ambiguously rears its head here, because mixed with parliamentary intrigue, the great deceiver is beginning to show signs of doubt and remorse, but knowing him to be a demagogue, can we trust him? Is he lucidly toying with us? Do we open up? It all comes back to Lolita, the seduced younger woman, his mirrored nemesis the current Chief Whip. It is good material, a good text to work from.

Alas, the same problem persists as in Cards.

Urquhart's doubt grows from memories of the first film, the whole Mattie Storin affair. If you haven't seen Cards, he has done something horrible even by his standards, and tormenting visions begin to seep into and disrupt his control.

Now there are two types of film when dealing with cinematic memory, mostly distinct of each other.

Films where memory is a narrative device and the reminiscing self fetches the images as insight into some past story, a category of which this is a part of, and can be relied on for a good jigsaw but hardly much else. Hitchcock usually worked in this way.

And films, much fewer, where true to the function of memory, images steal into the story as insight of the narrating self, images not always in the right order or logical that partly create the self. All the great films (as well as Lolita) fall in this latter category.

So the narrative is clean and logical, which the British do better than anyone. The acting is fine, Richardson above all. But, there is no reason whatsoever for Urquhart to be truly confiding to the viewer, especially now that we see aspects of Urquhart he does not control. Everyone else is being lied to, uncertain and fumbling, but we are not. This is as if Lolita was just a chronicle of mischiefs, missing layers.

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